Dreamliner 'Safe' Despite Battery Mystery
Aircraft maker Boeing has insisted its grounded Dreamliner is "absolutely" safe, despite the exact cause behind a series of battery faults apparently still a mystery.
The company said it expected the hi-tech 787 plane to be back in the air within weeks, as it sought to reassure airlines and passengers about the aircraft.
The 50 planes grounded around the world in mid-January since two lithium-ion battery malfunctions will undergo fixes to their systems and be operational again soon, senior executives said.
The company said despite the efforts of a 500-strong team of engineers from different disciplines, the fundamental problem has still eluded them.
But teams identified 80 potential scenarios that could cause a battery failure and worked to provide solutions and preventative measures.
These included boosting insulation inside the battery pack and adding vent lines so any escaping vapour is discharged outside the aircraft.
"I get often asked if I think the airplane is still safe. My answer is simple: absolutely," Mike Sinnett, the chief project engineer on the 787, said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are the main operators of Dreamliners and a third of the composite construction componentry is sourced from the Asian country.
"We design so that no single failure can place flight landing at risk," Mr Sinnett said.
"Every critical system on an airplane has multiple layers of redundancy."
Mr Sinnett said the probe into the two incidents had proved that the aircraft's safety measures had worked.
Ray Connor, president of Boeing's commercial division, said measures the company had put in place and which were now undergoing flight testing would put the aircraft back in the skies.
"We are going to be dependent upon (moving) through the certification process. We will determine when we actually get back in the air in terms of flights," Mr Connor said.
"Previously as I have been anticipating that in months, we are talking more along the line of weeks," he said.
The Dreamliner has been lauded for its use of next-generation materials that have cut weight and slashed fuel costs.
Boeing opted to use lithium-ion batteries for the plane, which engineers say are lighter than other batteries, provide a higher power output and retain their charge when not in use.
But the batteries have come under scrutiny after a small fire on a parked 787 at Boston's Logan Airport in January. Days later, what appeared to be smoke from a battery on an ANA flight forced an emergency landing in Japan.